Export of Aerospace Parts to UK

Overview and Trends

The UK aerospace industry (a 17% global market share) is the largest in Europe and second only to the US. The industry is a jewel in the crown of the UK economy, producing innovative aircraft, new technology and wealth for the country. This industry has thousands of specialist companies, ranging from small components manufacturers to prime contractors, supplying materials and components to larger companies that assemble them into systems and subsystems, which are ultimately assembled to create a whole aircraft. Besides famous name global companies (several of which are UK owned) the UK sector encompasses around 2600 companies across all regions of the UK many of which are SMEs especially at tiers 2 and 3 in the supply chain. In terms of Maintenance Repair Overhaul & logistic (MROL), there are over 1,300 UK companies supporting the (MROL) sector. Together these companies have a turnover of around £15 billion, and they employ around 57,000 people in the UK.


UK import

In the EU, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain are the largest importers of aerospace parts in Europe, accounting for more than 90% of total imports. Imports from developing countries are dominated by Tunisia and Morocco (both due to supplier relationships with French Tier 2 suppliers in the Airbus supply chain), China, Turkey, Malaysia and India. Other suppliers from developing countries that play a role in European imports include Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand. While the Chinese market accounts for almost every third Airbus sold, it continues to play a limited role with regard to supplying aerospace parts (e.g. only 1% of parts for Airbus aircraft come from China). Tunisia and Morocco are especially strong in exports to France (because of their proximity and historical ties), while China is particularly strong in exports to France and the United Kingdom. Turkey is an important exporter to Spain and Italy, while Malaysia exports primarily to the United Kingdom.


Distribution Channel

Potential buyers in UK are the so-called Tier 2 or Tier 3 aerospace suppliers in UK. These prospects can be approached directly, but an indirect approach (agent or distributor) may be a good option too. The Tier 2/3 suppliers are a chain in the large aerospace production value chain. For aerospace parts suppliers from non-EU countries, the best strategy to enter the aerospace industry is to focus on tier 2 or 3 companies that integrate parts with their own parts/products to provide comprehensive solutions to the aircraft manufacturers (or: Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)).

As a rule of thumb, the higher the product requirements or the more critical the application, the longer it takes before suppliers are qualified. A direct presence in UK or one of the top aerospace EU countries could strongly support this process. Producers from non-EU countries that do not wish to set up an own representation in Europe, should choose an agent or distributor with a good reputation in the aerospace industry.

Similar to several other industries, the large OEMs have sharply reduced their number of suppliers. One example is Airbus, which is now dealing with a smaller number of larger manufacturers. As a result, many aerospace parts producers are not supplying Airbus directly anymore but instead deal with 1st, 2nd or 3rd tier suppliers. A next step in Airbus’ sourcing strategy is to globalise sourcing operations; Airbus’ Global Sourcing Network (GSN) has set a target of 40% to be sourced outside Western Europe by 2020. The GSN central team is based in Toulouse and Ottobrunn and operates Country Sourcing Offices in three strategic countries (China, India, USA). Country Focal Points are Brazil, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Mexico.